The Jewish Thought Series: Judaism, Islam, Eretz Yisrael and Stones

November 24, 2016 22:57

In a Jewish Chronicle blog post named “Palestine Campaign head visits anti-Israel protesters outside Ahava” RichMillet brings a quote from the Koran as follows:

“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim).

[ Sahih Muslim, 41:6985, see also Sahih Muslim, 41:6981, Sahih Muslim, 41:6982, Sahih Muslim, 41:6983, Sahih Muslim, 41:6984, Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:56:791,(Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:177) ]

I wish to juxtaposition this with the attitude of Judaism towards those same stones and trees, for the sake of comparison.


Throughout history, different nations have received different levels of public relations. To give just two examples from Jewish (biblical) history, let’s look at Amalek (Exodus Ch. 17) and the Amorite (Numbers Ch. 21).

Most people can talk fairly knowledgeably, at least for a minute or two about Amalek; we read about him in the Torah every year on the Shabat before Purim, and again later on during the year. We are commanded to remember what he did to us, and to wipe out his name.

As for the Amorite, few can say much about him. As some American Jews summarize most Jewish Holidays and festivals: “they tried to kill us, we beat them, let’s go eat …”.

In actual fact the opposite is true. We know practically nothing at all about the Amalekite beyond what he did to us on a one-time basis at the time of our exodus from Egypt. I once spent an entire evening combing several Toranic databases looking for all available rabbinical material on Amalek, and all I came up with was the opinion that Amalek originated in the Arad area (in the Negev desert). [I once managed to dehydrate there while on military maneuvers. Amalek’s revenge?]

On the other hand, we know so much about the Amorites that I could write a book about them if I had to. I don’t have to, because it’s been done. One of the external additions to the Babylonian Talmud is named Tosefta (lit. ‘addition’). It tells us many of the small things in the Amorites’ life; how the Amorite woman cooked in her kitchen, what she cooked (one example: a concoction of bread, milk and salt), and of their customs and superstitions. I first heard of Tosefta when I was 11 or 12 years old, while reading Ripley’s famous “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”. He stated there that while the American Benjamin Franklyn was generally considered the inventor of the lightning conductor (discovered while playing with a kite in a storm), this wasn’t so, said Ripley: the principle of the lightning conductor is mentioned in the Talmudic Tosefta, written some 2,000 years ago, where it is written “he who throws pieces of iron amongst chickens, these are the ways of the Amorite. But if this is done because of thunder or lightning, it is permitted”. The preceding sentence refers to the principle of the lightning conductor!

“These are the ways of the Amorite”. This relates to a specific negative commandment of the Torah forbidding us to follow in the ways of the residents of Canaan who preceded us. This is a separate command from the one forbidding idol-worship. The essence of “the ways of the Amorite” is customs that are basically nonsensical. This is the reason that Tosefta details the Amorites’ mannerisms and customs– so that we should know what NOT to do.

And here we approach our point. Whereas the Amorite practiced “the ways of the Amorite” (“darkei haEmori”), Judaism preaches “derech eretz”, literally “the way of the land”. Herein lies the difference: the Amorite forced his nonsensical customs upon the land, whereas we learned from the land what our customs should be.

“We learned from the land” – are we attributing a quality of intelligence to the Land of Israel? – we will go a lot further than that. In fact history goes a lot further than that: the fact that for two thousand years Eretz Yisrael remained mostly desolate, (the ‘fertile crescent’ certainly never interested any of the Arab countries now clamoring wildly for our removal from it ) and as soon as we started returning began its own blooming revival, already tells us something.

But it goes a lot deeper than that.

Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Harlap remains for some reason almost unknown outside of Merkaz HaRav Kook circles. After the original Rabbi Kook died in 1935, Rabbi Harlap took over as Rosh Yeshiva until he himself passed away in the early ‘fifties, after which Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook took over.

Rabbi Harlap wrote a series of books on subjects concerning Jewish Philosophy, all of the series being named Mei Merom (lit. ‘Waters of Merom’), after the site of Joshua’s decisive battle and victory over 31 Canaanite kings (Joshua Chapter 11).

There is one particular book in this series (volume vi) that for the several decades that I served annually and regularly in the IDF reserves, I always took with me to reserve duty. In a long series of short chapters – each chapter containing a new idea – the book discusses the relationship between the People and Land of Israel, and what can be expected at the time of Israel’s redemption.

I quote from this book as a total rebuttal of Islam’s vision of stones and trees inciting violence against Jews.

I am translating and rephrasing what Rabbi Harlap says in Mei Merom vi, Chap. 38, p.302:

“… Eretz Yisrael is not the same as all other lands. It is not merely passive. It possesses qualities of life and of choice. “That the Land will not vomit you out of it” (Leviticus 18, 28 and 20, 22) [this demonstrates choice], and not only that, but had Israel not sinned (the Golden Calf) the Land would have been revealed before us as an active force, and each and every stone within it would have told us wonders of the Oral Law (the Law unique to Israel).”

So there you have it: the Islamic vision of stones acting as participants in shedding blood in the Holy Land and in the incitement thereof, (and in actual fact the extensive use of stones as weapons during the first and second Intifadas, and even today), as opposed to the Judaic vision of spiritual revelation and elevation of minor, inconsequential material objects such as stones, to the spiritual heights of revealing the wonders of the Oral Law.

Judging solely upon the basis of what I have written above: who has the greater moral right to the Land?

Avraham Reiss – Jerusalem
MarCheshvan, 5771

November 24, 2016 22:57

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